The Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) is committed to building the world's most influential community of entrepreneurs. One way we encourage and support young entrepreneurs is through the EO Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA), EO's premier competition for college and university students who own and operate a business. The competition culminates with the Global Finals, where "studentpreneurs" from 50+ countries compete and make connections with both seasoned entrepreneurs and their fellow competitors. The 2019 EO GSEA winner is Daniela Blanco, who represented the United States in the intense, international competition. We asked Daniela, co-founder of Sunthetics, about her entrepreneurial journey. Here's what she shared:

What inspired you to become an environmental entrepreneur?

My mom inspired me to become an entrepreneur. As a single mom, she showed me the power of knowing that everything you need to succeed is already within yourself. I loved science from an early age, and I wanted to do science "that helped people." I grew up admiring the chemical industry's achievements but was disappointed to realize that it was not sustainable, and worse--that everyone was settling for that unsustainable model. Once I decided to become a chemical engineer, I knew it was in my hands to make a difference. It became my dream to challenge the status quo and disrupt the industry by finding a way to make sustainability profitable and feasible.   

Tell us about your company.

My goal in starting Sunthetics is to make the chemical industry more sustainable and lower its environmental impact. We've developed a more efficient and cleaner manufacturing process for a nylon intermediate--a key component used in making nylon. We chose it as our first product because the current process is expensive, inefficient and unsustainable. Plus, demand for nylon is increasing rapidly, and this intermediate component is the bottleneck.

We redesigned the manufacturing process by using electricity instead of heat as a source of power. By optimizing the process, we're able to reduce raw materials, energy use and waste by 50 percent.

In addition, using DC electricity enables us to cost-effectively couple our reactor with renewable energy sources such as solar power, enabling emission-free production. Overall, we can reduce manufacturing costs by 30 percent.  

What specific environmental impact will Sunthetics' products have?

Nylon production is one of the most polluting in the fiber and plastic industry, but our process makes it cleaner. Compared with the current process, once our technology is optimized at scale we expect it to:

  • Use 50% less raw material
  • Require 50% less energy
  • Produce 50% less waste
  • Enable us to use renewable energy
  • Reduce manufacturing costs by 30%
  • Reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions of nylon 6,6 manufacturing by 20%

A 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions for the entire nylon 6,6 manufacturing process is equivalent to avoiding 2.4 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. To put that into perspective, that would be the result if everyone in New York City stopped driving their cars for six months.

And that's just the beginning. We plan to use our process to target chemical reactions in other sectors--including the pharmaceutical, medical, textile, cosmetics, plastic and pesticide industries. We are driving sustainable change in the chemical industry, one reaction at a time.   

Tell us about your EO GSEA journey.

I was surprised to realize that the EO GSEA competition is not solely about the business, but also about myself as an entrepreneur. It was challenging but extremely rewarding to take the time to understand the factors that contributed to my journey. As a result, I see entrepreneurship in a different light. When I meet an entrepreneur, I don't want to know just about their company--I wonder what inspired them to start that business. It's significant, and it truly matters.

EO GSEA was the most inspiring competition I have participated in. It was the first time I got to tell my story, and I couldn't have wished for a more receptive audience.

What did you learn from your 50 fellow student entrepreneurs in the EO GSEA Global Finals?

I am amazed and inspired by each of the finalists I met during the global competition in Macau, China. I was humbled to be part of such a talented and brave group. Listening to their stories was eye-opening, and it made me realize that our world is in good hands. I learned that entrepreneurship doesn't see age, language, cultures or borders. We all have one goal and dream in common: We want a better future, and we are building it.

The EO GSEA grand prize includes $25,000 in cash plus $75,000 in Amazon Web Services. How will this enhance your entrepreneurial journey?

GSEA has inspired and motivated me to fight even harder to achieve my dreams. I plan to leverage the incredible network and resources of EO entrepreneurs to make connections and gain more traction for the business. The mentorship and support I have received thus far have been invaluable. 

Now the focus is on scaling our technology. We have raised $400,000 in non-diluted grants and competitions. It's time to move forward and prove to the industry how sustainable chemical processes can--and will--become a reality!